By Tom Mcloughlin
There was once a time when marketing for travel businesses (and most other businesses) was all about coming up with persuasive headlines and calls-to-action that aimed to persuade a large group of people to part with their money in exchange for your business offering. Whilst some of these campaigns did prove to be incredibly effective, this method of aggressively trying to sell to as many people as possible didn’t have very high conversion rates and sometimes ended up actively dissuading potential customers from engaging with a brand in the future.
Inbound marketing was the solution to this hit-and-miss technique; an approach that focused on attracting customers organically and building a positive brand image. For travel brands in particular, inbound marketing is a great way to increase your conversion rates and build a strong customer base that generates repeat business and positive reviews.
In this article, we share some of the most effective inbound marketing techniques that travel businesses can use to improve their marketing strategy.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing technique that focuses on attracting customers to the brand instead of actively going out and trying to get them to engage with marketing material that you’re pushing at everyone. This tends to be a much more effective technique than outbound marketing and has much higher rates of engagement and customer conversion.
The essence of inbound marketing is building a strong and desirable brand image that attracts potential customers who are already interested in the kind of thing your business offers. Instead of seeking new customers and then trying to convert them, you spend time and resources building a reputation that finds potential customers for you.
“Pull marketing” is at the heart of inbound techniques, using things like content marketing, search engine optimisation, events and social media to create offerings that your target audience is going to be genuinely interested in. It focuses on building relationships over explicitly trying to sell a product or service and gives potential customers the power to decide when they want to make a purchase.
10 of the Most Effective Inbound Marketing Techniques for Travel Businesses
It’s likely that you’re already implementing some of the most common inbound marketing techniques into your travel business’ existing marketing strategy. There’s always more to explore however, so below are 10 of the most effective approaches to consider if you want to give your marketing strategy a boost.
Understand Your USP
Inbound marketing works by building a positive brand image that attracts customers through creating and sharing valuable content. The first step to creating a strong brand image is understanding what it is that makes you stand out from your competitors and then building a reputation around this that impacts the content you share, the tone of your marketing material and the audience you are going to target.
The travel industry is fiercely competitive, so you’ll need a clear USP if you’re going to carve out a niche for yourself and build a dedicated customer base. This unique feature could be anything from the specific travel experience you offer and the location your services focus on to the story or values behind your business’ conception.
Once you’ve identified what it is that makes your brand unique, decide how you’re going to incorporate this into every aspect of your marketing strategy. Targeted marketing content is always the most effective, so make sure you have a clear idea of what is specifically going to attract customers to your brand.
Begin with Customer Personas
Leading on from that last point, once you have a clear idea of your brand’s unique selling point you can go on to identify which types of customers are most likely to make up your target audience. Creating customer personas is a great way of segmenting your audience and getting a clear picture of the demographics that are most likely to become customers, which you can do either by analysing existing customer data or sourcing this information from online databases.
Customer personas should contain basic information like your typical customers’ age range, occupation, income and family or marital status. You should also collect information about the kind of holiday experiences they usually book, along with general interests, values, and any pain points that your travel brand has the potential to solve.
Whenever you’re coming up with new ideas for a marketing campaign or piece of content, always begin by looking at your customer personas and deciding who you are trying to target. Focusing on these details right from the beginning is a key part of successful inbound marketing as it ensures that the content you’re putting out is going to attract the kinds of potential customers who are likely to convert.
Target the Buyer Journey
Targeting the buyer journey is one of the most fundamental parts of an inbound marketing approach. Instead of just putting vague marketing material out into the world and hoping potential customers might see it at a time when they are considering making a purchase, your travel brand will produce content that applies to different stages of the journey, increasing chances of conversion at every stage.
The buyer journey can be broken down into the following stages: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
At the Awareness stage, you want to be creating content that is going to appeal to your target audience’s interests and make them aware of your company and what you offer.
This could include blog posts spotlighting certain destinations that you offer holidays to or social media posts showing what your guests get up to when they travel.
When your audience has reached the Consideration stage, your content should be selling the benefits of your brand and establishing yourself as a valuable and trusted source of travel experiences and information. Content that works well at this stage could be a guide to a location by an expert or local who lives there, which offers unique insight. Your focus should be engaging potential customers and starting to plant the seed in their minds that a travel experience with your brand is a good option.
Finally, at the Decision stage, the content you are creating should be establishing your brand as the best choice in your sector of the industry and pushing the audience to make a purchase. This could involve previous customer testimonials, reviews, or video and written content that illustrates what the experience of your brand offering will be like.
Find Your Audience with SEO
SEO marketing and inbound marketing are often talked about as two separate strategies, but they go hand in hand. Inbound techniques are all about ensuring that your content gets found by people who have a genuine interest in it, and a key part of search engine optimisation is doing precisely that.
In case you’re not sure what we’re on about, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a marketing technique that uses a variety of strategies to improve the quantity and quality of organic traffic arriving at a brand’s website. By focusing on popular keyword phrases, on-page optimisation, and building quality links to and from certain landing pages, your brand’s website is more likely to appear at the top of search engine results pages and get more engagement from potential customers.
SEO techniques ensure that the web users who end up on your site are looking for a travel brand like yours by including relevant search terms across the website content and supporting the authority of your brand based on the other sites that have linked to it. It’s not a technique that yields instant results, but it’s one of the most effective ways to get more of your target audience to find your site and increase the likelihood that they’ll convert to customers.
Offer Solutions with Content Marketing
Content marketing is an essential aspect of inbound marketing. If you want to attract potential customers to your website or social media profiles then you need to offer something interesting, relevant and valuable, which is where content comes in.
The term “content” refers to any form of media that is created by a brand and shared with its audience. This could include blog posts, emails, videos, social media posts and podcast episodes. The kind of content your travel brand shares will depend on who your target audience is and what kind of content you have identified they are going to find most valuable.
Creating content as a part of inbound marketing involves figuring out what problems or questions your ideal customer is going to be dealing with and then using appropriate formats to offer solutions. In the travel industry, this could be creating guides to destinations, offering recommendations for places to stay and things to do, ranking popular locations and identifying which is the best for different types of travellers, or sharing insight on the benefits offered by certain travel experiences.
This will target potential customers who are looking for these solutions and show them that your business is the best choice for booking a trip.
Respond to Travel Trends
An effective tactic in inbound marketing is adapting your strategy to respond to travel trends, whether these are seasonal peaks and dips or short-lived surges in interest in certain locations or types of holidays.
A good inbound marketer understands what their customers are looking for and ensures that they are delivering this, whether through content or the actual offering of their brand. In travel, this means keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry, your competitors, and the sector you belong to so that you remain relevant and can capitalise on trends. It also means paying attention to when bookings rise and fall so that you can target popular times of the year and slow times of the year with different marketing campaigns, ensuring that you’re ready and waiting when interest starts to spike.
Consider Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is an excellent method of inbound marketing because of the way it gets your brand name out in front of an audience who are likely to already have an interest in what you offer. It’s also particularly effective for travel brands because blogging is such a huge aspect of the industry and travel blogs are used so frequently by potential customers when they start to think about booking a trip.
If your travel brand already has a blog that has good levels of engagement, then it will be easy to reach out to other brands or bloggers and ask if you can write a piece of featured content for their site. If their followers enjoy the content you have written, then they’ll be likely to check out your blog, which will hopefully lead to them taking an interest in what your business offers.
Encourage Positive Feedback
If you want to attract customers by creating a positive brand image, then a great inbound marketing technique is to get your existing customers to generate this positive publicity for you.
Glowing reviews of your travel business will be more persuasive than most pieces of marketing content you can produce yourself, so it’s worth giving your existing customers an incentive for sharing their experiences on your website or across social media. You could offer entry into a competition when customers leave a review, give a discount in exchange for feedback, or create a scheme that gives repeat customers perks when they refer other people to book with your brand.
Positive feedback is the goal, but negative feedback shouldn’t be ignored. How you respond to criticism or complaints is more important than the thanks you give for praise, so don’t just delete bad ratings and hope that the others will carry you along.
Invest in Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is effective in the same way that positive reviews are; potential customers are more likely to trust the experiences of others than to just take your brand’s marketing messages as gospel. It’s an effective method of inbound marketing as it gets your brand’s name out in front of an audience who are likely to take an interest in the travel experiences that you offer, as well as helping to build an impressive reputation.
When selecting an influencer to partner with, it’s worth taking the time to check the quality of the relationship they have with their following instead of the number of people who engage with their content. Influencer marketing campaigns are much more effective when the audience they reach trusts and enjoys what the influencer they follow shares, so influencers who might have millions of followers aren’t necessarily the better choice over those with only a few thousand.
There are lots of different approaches to influencer marketing; you can offer free stays in exchange for publicity, team up for giveaways or build a partnership that produces lots of content over a period.
Keep Your Customers Delighted
Finally, a vital element of inbound marketing is to remember to keep your existing customer base engaged as well as trying to grow your following. A key part of a good brand image for a travel company is having repeat customers who recommend you to their friends and family and generate consistent business, and you won’t keep these customers if you don’t take care of and delight them.
Think about the kind of content that these customers are going to find useful when it comes to what you’re sharing in your email newsletter and on your blog so that you’re not just targeting people higher up the buyer funnel. Also, consider implementing loyalty schemes or offering discounts after a certain number of bookings to encourage repeat business and keep existing customers happy.
Many of the most popular trends in travel marketing at the moment make use of inbound techniques, so it’s likely you’re already doing at least some of the things we have mentioned above. However, it’s always good to be reminded of how to keep building an attractive brand image and target those who already have an interest in what your travel company offers, as this is the best way to keep growing your business and building an unbeatable reputation.
If you need more information or help with your travel marketing strategy, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer.